Delivering Food, Shelter, and Hope to the Poorest of the Poor.


Hundreds of “Missionaries of Mercy” were commissioned by Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday to be “living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon” during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Scroll down for the complete text of the Pope’s Ash Wednesday message.

The Cross Catholic Outreach connection

Among the Missionaries of Mercy commissioned on Ash Wednesday were six of our own Outreach Priests. These six priests will bring the teaching of Christ’s mercy to life for parishioners throughout the U.S., and also raise awareness of the Church’s global poverty relief work, as they fulfill their special role as welcoming and compassionate Confessors. The theme of the Jubilee is inextricably tied to the Church’s mission of mercifully serving the poorest of the poor. Cross Catholic Outreach will also have related campaigns to help the poor running through the year at

Pope Francis’ Ash Wednesday Message:

The Word of God, the beginning of the Lenten journey, addressed to the Church and to each of us invitations.

The first is that of St. Paul: " Be reconciled to God " ( 2 Cor 5:20). It is not simply a good fatherly advice nor a suggestion only; is a real plea on behalf of Christ: "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" ( ibid. ). Because an appeal so solemn and heartfelt? Because Christ knows our fragile and sinful, we know the weakness of our heart; He sees hurt by the wrongs we have done and suffered; knows how much we need forgiveness, we know that we need to feel loved to do good. Alone we are not able: for this the apostle tells us to do something , but let us be reconciled by God to allow him to forgive us, with confidence, because "God is greater than our hearts" ( 1 Jn 3:20) . He conquers sin and raises us from the miseries, if we entrust them to him. It is for us to recognize ourselves in need of mercy : it is the first step of the Christian journey; it comes in through the open door that is Christ, where we expect he himself, the Savior, and offers us a new and joyous life.

There may be some barriers that close the doors of the heart. There is the temptation to lock up the doors , that is, to live with his sin, minimizing it, always justifying himself, thinking that it is not worse than others; so, however, they close the soul locks and remains locked in, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is the shame to open the door of the secret heart. Shame, really, is a good sign, because it indicates that we want to break away from evil; however, must never become afraid or fear. And there is a third pitfall, to move away from the door : it happens when we holed up in our misery, when brood continuously, linking the negative things, as long inabissarci in the darkest cellars of the soul. Then we become even family of sadness that we do not want, get discouraged and we are weaker in the face of temptations. This is because we are alone with ourselves, shutting and fleeing from the light; while only the grace of the Lord frees us. Let us then reconciled, we hear Jesus saying to the weary and oppressed "come to me" ( Mt 11:28). Not remain in yourself, but go to Him! There are refreshment and peace.

In this celebration are the Missionaries of Mercy , to receive the mandate to be signs and instruments of God's forgiveness. Dear brothers, can help open the doors of our hearts, to overcome the shame, not to flee from the light. That your hands and risollevino bless our brothers and sisters with paternity; that through you the look and the hands of the Father will not perch on the children and I look after the wounds!

There is a second call of God, who says, through the prophet Joel: " Return to me with all your heart " (2:12). If you have to return it because we have moved away. It is the mystery of sin, we turned away from God, from others, from ourselves . It is not difficult to realize: all see how we struggle to get really trust in God, to trust in Him as Father, without fear; as it is difficult to love others, instead of thinking ill of them; how much does our true good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material things, that fade and eventually leave us poor. Next to this story of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel that opens Lent invites us to be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines that heal from sin (cf. Mt 6,1-6.16-18).

First the prayer , opening speech and trust in the Lord: it is a personal encounter with Him, that shortens the distance created by sin. To pray means to say, "are not self-sufficient, I need You, You are my life and my salvation." Secondly, the charity , to overcome the strangeness towards others. True love, in fact, is not an outward act, is not in a paternalistic way to give something to quiet the conscience, but to accept those in need of our time, of our friendship, our help. You live the service, overcoming the temptation to satisfy us. Third, fasting , penance, to free us from dependency towards what passes and train ourselves to be more sensitive and compassionate. It is an invitation to simplicity and sharing: take anything away from our table and our goods to rediscover the true good of freedom.

"Return to me - says the Lord - you come back with all my heart": not only with some external act, but from the depths of ourselves. In fact, Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with consistency and authenticity, winning the hypocrisy. Lent is a beneficial time "pruning" of the falsity, of worldliness, indifference: not to think that everything is fine if I'm fine; to understand that what matters is not the approval, the pursuit of success or consent, but the cleanliness of the heart and of life; to rediscover Christian identity, that is the love that serves, not selfishness that makes use . Let's walk together, as Church, receiving the Ashes - we too will become ashes - and keeping our eyes fixed on the Crucifix. He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and return to Him, to find ourselves.

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